Some people think there’s only one way to learn.

Surely, many of us, when we think of learning, imagine someone studying or doing learning by heart. However, there are different types of learning with very different characteristics from each other . In today’s article, we will go over them and explain them.

Psychology and learning

Learning refers to the acquisition of knowledge, skills, values and attitudes , and human beings would not be able to adapt to change without this process.

Psychology has been interested in this phenomenon for several decades and many authors have contributed valuable knowledge about what it is and how such learning is constructed. Ivan Pavlov, John Watson or Albert Bandura are clear examples of this marked interest.

If you are interested in knowing more about the contribution of psychology to learning, we recommend reading the following articles:

  • Educational psychology: definition, concepts and theories
  • Jean Piaget’s Theory of Learning
  • The Sociocultural Theory of Lev Vygotsky
  • Piaget vs Vygotsky: similarities and differences between their theories

The different types of learning

Over the years, the studies of many of these researchers have made it possible to decipher how our memory works and how observation or experience influences the construction of knowledge and changes our way of acting.

But, what ways of learning are there? what kinds of learning are there? Here is an explanation.

Implicit learning

Implicit learning refers to a type of learning that is generally non-intentional and where the learner is not aware of what is being learned.

The result of this learning is the automatic execution of a motor behavior. The truth is that many of the things we learn happen without us noticing, for example, talking or walking. Implicit learning was the first to exist and was key to our survival. We are always learning without realizing it.

2. Explicit learning

Explicit learning is characterised by the fact that the learner has the intention to learn and is aware of what he or she is learning .

For example, this type of learning allows us to acquire information about people, places and objects. That is why this form of learning requires sustained and selective attention from the most evolved area of our brain, that is, it requires the activation of the prefrontal lobes.

3. Associative learning

This is a process by which an individual learns the association between two stimuli or a stimulus and a behavior . One of the great theoreticians of this type of learning was Ivan Pavlov, who dedicated part of his life to the study of classical conditioning, a type of associative learning.

  • You can learn more about this type of learning in our article: “Classical conditioning and its most important experiments”

4. Non-associative learning (habituation and awareness)

Non-associative learning is a type of learning that is based on a change in our response to a stimulus that occurs continuously and repeatedly . For example, when someone lives near a discotheque, at first he may be annoyed by the noise. Over time, after prolonged exposure to this stimulus, he will not notice the noise pollution, as he will have become accustomed to the noise.

Within non-associative learning we find two phenomena: the habituation and the sensitization .

  • To know more, visit our post: “Habituation: a key process in pre-associative learning”

5. Meaningful learning

This type of learning is characterised by the fact that the individual collects the information, selects it, organises it and establishes relationships with the knowledge he or she already has . In other words, it is when a person relates the new information to the one he/she already has.

  • You can learn more about meaningful learning by clicking here

6. Cooperative Learning

Cooperative learning is a type of learning that allows each student to learn not only on his own, but also with his peers .

Therefore, it is usually carried out in the classrooms of many schools, and the groups of students do not usually exceed five members. The teacher is the one who forms the groups and who guides them, directing the action and distributing roles and functions.

7. Collaborative learning

Collaborative learning is similar to cooperative learning. However, the former differs from the latter in the degree of freedom with which groups are constituted and function.

In this type of learning, it is the teachers or educators who propose a topic or problem and the students decide how to approach it

8. Emotional learning

Emotional learning means learning to know and manage emotions more efficiently . This learning provides many benefits at a mental and psychological level, as it has a positive influence on our well-being, improves interpersonal relationships, favours personal development and empowers us.

9. Observational learning

This type of learning is also known as vicarious learning, by imitation or modeling or , and is based on a social situation in which at least two individuals participate: the model (the person from whom the learning takes place) and the subject who performs the observation of said behaviour, and learns it.

10. Experiential learning

Experiential learning is the learning that comes from experience , as its name indicates.

This is a very powerful way to learn. In fact, when we talk about learning from mistakes, we are referring to learning from experience. However, experience can have different consequences for each individual, because not everyone will perceive the facts in the same way. What takes us from simple experience to learning is self-reflection.

11. Learning by discovery

This learning refers to active learning , in which the person, instead of learning the contents in a passive way, discovers, relates and reorders the concepts to adapt them to his/her cognitive scheme. One of the great theoreticians of this type of learning is Jerome Bruner.

12. Rote learning

Memoristic learning means learning and fixing in the memory different concepts without understanding what they mean , so it does not carry out a process of meaning. It is a type of learning that is carried out as a mechanical and repetitive action.

13. Receptive learning

With this type of learning called receptive learning the person receives the content that has to be internalised .

It’s a kind of imposed, passive learning. In the classroom it occurs when the student, mainly because of the teacher’s explanation, printed material or audiovisual information, only needs to understand the content in order to be able to reproduce it.

Bibliographic references:

  • Arias Gómez, D. H. (2005) Enseñanza y Aprendizaje de las Ciencias Sociales: Una propuesta didáctica. Bogotá. Cooperativa Editorial Magisterio.
  • Farnham-Diggory, S (2004) Dificultades de Aprendizaje. Madrid. Ediciones Morata.
  • Hoppenstead, F. C.; Izhikevich, E. M. (1997) Weakly Connected Neural Networks. Nueva York. Springer-Verlag.